Masks make communication more difficult for some with hearing impairments

Written by on May 11, 2020

Masks make communication more difficult for some with hearing impairments 

By Megan Frank

May 11, 2020

Photo Megan Frank / WLVR

Face masks are now required at many stores and public places to help stop the spread of COVID-19. For people with a hearing impairment, this adds an extra challenge. As WLVR’s Megan Frank reports, a little tech can go a long way with in-person interactions. 

For people with hearing loss, visual cues like lip reading and facial expressions can help them to understand other people. Audiologist Lindsay Bondurant of the Pennsylvania Ear Institute at Salus University says even people with good hearing rely on those cues to communicate.

“You feel like you can hear people better if they turn around and face you. It hasn’t changed your hearing. It’s that your brain uses those cues to understand what is being said,” said Bondurant.

Bethlehem resident Christina Derhammer, who is deaf, is using an accessibility app that performs real-time transcription of speech. She spoke to WLVR through a sign language interpreter.

“I found an app that I can use called Live Transcribe. It’s great. I’m using gestures a lot more, that’s part of ASL – American Sign Language. We have to learn to be patient and to adapt to what’s going on,” said Derhammer.

For anyone trying to communicate, the Pennsylvania Ear Institute also recommends utilizing a digital device like a smartphone or tablet to type messages to people wearing masks.They added that an old-fashioned paper and pen is acceptable, too.  

Watch Megan’s PBS39 News Tonight report.

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